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So much is happening locally and statewide that this gutty little blog sometimes forgets to take a look at the national election, which seems to be stagnant. But sometimes something comes along that can really illuminate things for our readership — and today is one of those lucky days. Read this piece.
Before discussing it, I want to remind people of one thing: Barack Obama was not supposed to win the Presidency in 2008. This is mostly because he was not supposed to win the nomination. Hillary Clinton was, sooner or later, supposed to crush him. And one big reason that he snuck out ahead of her, withstood her challenge on Super Tuesday, and managed to grind out a war of attrition through to the convention was this:
His team read and understood the delegate selection rules and hers didn’t.
I don’t primarily blame Hillary for this. It is to be expected that one’s strategists would read the rules and realize that choosing delegates by Congressional district — which gives Democrats in South OC and Republicans in East LA power in choosing delegates disproportionate to their numbers — generates a very different strategy than does a system in which they are awarded proportionately by state. Obama won the nomination, even when sometimes apparently underperforming in primaries, because he understood that under the rules getting the support of Democrats in places like Mission Viejo was more important than getting the support of Democrats in places like Santa Ana. Fewer Democrats in the district mean fewer people to convince in order to win a delegate.
Something similar is happening right now in the national election, though it’s much less subtle. Obama is playing to win the Electoral College, regardless of whether he wins the popular vote. You could look around California and barely notice that there’s a Presidential Election going on, except for fundraisers. But in the 14 or so “swing states” that could go either way, the fighting over the airwaves in already well underway.
That’s where Obama is concentrating his forces. And that’s where he’s going up in the polls, even as he declines elsewhere.
The margin favoring Romney is growing in red states — where Romney is a sure bet to win anyway. Obama does not much care about that. The margin favoring Obama is shrinking a bit in blue states. Obama does not care much about that yet. What he’s learning in the swing states is what sort of advertising works — and citizens of those states will see plenty of it before November 6. The trends in those states where the winner is virtually certain are dragging down Obama in the national polls — yet he’s not falling! That is because they are being offset by his margin increasing in the swing states. Those are the figures that matter — and, as the article linked above suggests, that’s where he’s doing well.
“Campaign like you’re three points behind,” that’s how the saying goes. And one should do so, of course — we certainly have plenty to do here. But: Democrats who watch the national numbers showing a close race should not panic. Republicans who watch the national numbers should not get complacent — although, if they do, I don’t mind too much.
After all, getting complacent what happened to Hillary Clinton in the early months of 2008 — and we all know how that turned out.